Movie adaptations have ranged everywhere from comic books and short stories to 80s television shows and journal articles, but never have we seen (nor should we have seen coming) a horror movie based on a podcast.
But a little over a year ago writer/director Kevin Smith and producer and co-host Scott Mosier sat down and recorded what would essentially be Tusk, then known only as “SModcast #259: The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Now only fifteen months later we have the cinematic realization of a conversation that started as merely a joke, however the film itself has become much more than joke and proves that Kevin Smith is above all else, a great storyteller.
Justin Long plays Wallace Bryton, a podcaster for the Not-See Party (yes, and it runs dry fairly quickly), who goes on mini-adventures to meet interesting people and relay their stories to Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), Wallace’s co-host. It’s on one of these trips to Canada in search of a YouTube sensation who accidentally cut off his own leg, that Wallace sees a flyer above his urinal and becomes engrossed in its unusual and unsettling content. He sets off to find its author, Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a man who is willing to share his home at no (monetary) cost, except the lodger is required to behave as a walrus in addition to wearing a costume resembling the mammal for a mere two hours each day.
The film has some problems, but where it lets us down is its tone-shifting and crude humor, it excels in execution and originality towards the genre. Once we surpass the dick jokes in the set-up and meet the walrus-lover himself, Michael Parks owns every scene he is in. Playing a man who has had many adventures – from meeting Ernest Hemingway to befriending a walrus – Parks channels Quint from Jaws (1975) while creating a distinctly haunting character all his own. Howard Howe can often seem humorous in his own utterly disturbing way, but like any pleasure he seeks, its only to amuse himself. Otherwise he’s downright sinister and we only come to find out what he’s truly capable of as our hero Wallace does, which is often too late.
Simply stated, this film is bizarre and to describe much more would only hurt the experience. And Tusk is truly one to experience. Although Smith has too much crude humor in the first act that seems to be an unnatural component by the end of the story, it’s the balance of dark humor, masterful dialogue and grotesque imagery throughout that makes this a must-see.
And now that it’s being reported everywhere, I think it’s safe to say that Johnny Depp makes an appearance in the third act and nearly steals the show (Parks is the master thief here, still) with his hilariously mesmerizing performance as the French-Canadian detective, Guy Lapointe.
Kevin Smith is back and will not go unnoticed. As the marketing suggest, Tusk is a “truly transformative tale,” which indeed is true, but nevermore so then for Smith himself. He’s proved here that can he can do more than a two-shot and a Star Wars joke, and I think he has plenty more to show. As for Tusk, it’s one of his best films – if even comparable within the context of his work – and not one to miss. [B]
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